When a book that we publish sells well, I always want to understand why, partly so that I can pass that information on to you. One book that’s been selling well lately is Farmer Able: A fable about servant leadership transforming organizations and people from the inside out by Art Barter. The book is an extended parable that teaches the lessons of servant leadership, the form of leadership in which leaders exist to serve the people they lead. It tells the story of a farmer named Able and his transformation from a typical all-about-me power-reliant head of farm and family to a true servant leader. The story is told from the perspective of both the humans and the animals on Able’s farm. Even the wind, plants, and Earth are characters in the story. The author very effectively uses anthropomorphism and onomatopoeia to create much of the humor. I found myself smiling frequently at short clever dialogues between chickens, cows, and pigs.
I recently spoke with the author to get his take on the strong book sales. Art said that, while he was happy that book sales were good, that was not his focus, because, for him the book is part of a larger mission, a mission to bring the message of servant leadership to organizations around the world.
In 2004 Art Barter purchased Datron World Communications, a small international radio manufacturer. Using a servant leadership philosophy and model he transformed the culture of the company so that it grew from $10 million in annual revenues to $200 million in just 6 years. Datron now donates a portion of its profits to charities chosen by its employees. The experience at Datron fueled Art’s passion for servant leadership and inspired him to found The Servant Leadership Institute to teach others how to implement servant leadership principles in their organizations. It also inspired him to write a book on servant leadership (Farmer Able) that would not just appeal to academics and management geeks, but to every reader who loves a good story.
One of the fundamental principles of servant leadership is that “it’s not about you,” the leader, but about the people you lead. Maybe the strong sales of Farmer Able are proof of this concept for book authors as well. If, like Art, you don’t focus on your book sales, but instead focus on the people you are trying to serve, your readers, then success will follow.